Family of casino robber says they believe his crime was “a cry for help”

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Dillon McCandless

FORT HALL — A man who robbed a casino last year was sentenced Thursday and his family says the crime could have been avoided with proper mental illness treatment.

Dillon McCandless, 28, of Blackfoot was sentenced to nearly nine years in federal prison for the July 2017 robbery of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes’ Sage Hill Casino. Dillon’s older brother, Wyatt McCandless, tells EastIdahoNews.com this would have never happened if Dillon received proper treatment for his schizophrenia.

RELATED: Manhunt underway for shotgun-wielding robber who stole money from Sage Hill Casino

“My brother has suffered from schizophrenia for quite a few years,” Wyatt tells EastIdahoNews.com. “At the time of the robbery, about a month prior, my parents had really tried everything to get him some help.”

Wyatt says Dillon functioned well when on proper medication that was continually adjusted by a physician. However, in the months before the robbery, Wyatt says the family noticed Dillon seemed to be struggling.

“On June 13, 2017, as part of this ongoing effort to help Dillon receive treatment, we met with Bingham County Prosecutor Chase Hendricks and his secretary,” Dillon’s mother, Angela McCandless, said in her statements to the court Thursday. “Mr. Hendricks told us that unless Dillon was a proven danger to himself or others, the county could not detain him or force him into treatment. We were discouraged and disappointed by this because we knew that he was on the verge of doing something harmful and we could not force him into treatment.”

On July 23, 2017, Dillan parked a pickup truck near the front of the casino and entered the building carrying a shotgun and a plastic bag, according to a news release. He demanded that an employee at the teller window place cash in the bag. After taking the money, Dillon fled northbound on U.S. Highway 91.

He was apprehended and taken into custody a few hours later after investigators were able to identify him by a unique hand tattoo. Wyatt said while his brother has been in custody, he has not received the treatment he needs.

“Since he’s been locked up in federal custody over the past year, he has not been seen by a doctor one time,” Wyatt says. “He had a severe, severe mental breakdown about a month ago.”

Wyatt says before the breakdown, his brother injured his hand and food after punching and kicking a wall out of frustration. He says the family was told by a U.S. Marshall that Dillon had been refusing to take his medication and that was the cause of the mental breakdown. Because of the breakdown, Wyatt says Dillon was tasered and placed in isolation.

Wyatt explained he and his family believe the mental health services in the prison system, especially in Idaho, are not adequate or equipped to help people with severe with mental illnesses.

“We don’t want what he has gone through and what we have gone through to happen to anyone else,” Wyatt said.

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